Aerospace engineering student and UT football quarterback, Joshua Dobbs, took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about his freshman year.
How would you grade your freshman year – in the classroom and on the field?
I feel that my freshman year was very productive, both in the classroom and on the field. Since I came to UT with several Dual-Enrollment and Advanced Placement credits from high school, I was able to jump right into a number of core curriculum courses for my major, as well as several honors classes to meet the Chancellor’s Honors Program requirements. My biggest academic challenge last year was juggling and finding time to meet with my study and project groups. Late afternoon and early evening were the preferred meeting times for the group; but, my schedule usually conflicted because of afternoon practice. Fortunately, we found creative ways to meet at the lab or Baker Center late nights and Sundays.
Athletically, I worked hard to add solid weight and strength in the Coach Lawson’s conditioning program. I also expanded my understanding of our playbook, got priceless game experience as a true freshman against nationally ranked teams, and helped our team to get its first SEC road win in years.
In what ways have you grown/matured in the last year? What are your goals for your sophomore year?
In the last year, I’ve grown mostly in my ability to pace myself. I have a better understanding of how to manage the grind of the football season and the academic year. I took a very aggressive load of honors classes this past year, which will help me accomplish two of my academic goals for this year. First, with the exception of an Honors Senior Project, I only need two more honors classes to complete my required curriculum for the Chancellors’ Honors Program. So, I plan to take the two classes by next summer. Second, I also plan to complete the entire course requirements for my Business Administration minor. On the athletic side, I want to add at least five more pounds of muscle, continue to master the fine details of our offense, and improve my pre-snap reads.
Most news stories about you mention that you’re an aerospace engineering major and they emphasize that because it’s seen as a more difficult major. NFL.com even named you one of 14 smartest college football players in the country. Does that put even more pressure on you in the classroom? Do your teammates ever mention it?
Obviously aerospace engineering isn’t a typical major for a football player. Having such a demanding schedule, I do appreciate that others recognize the challenge; but I’m just one of many student athletes out there that push themselves in the classroom. It was an honor to be included in Bryan Fischer’s 14 for ’14: Smartest Players in College Football article and it was really nice for NFL.com to recognize the academic side of college football. It’s a shame that the list wasn’t longer; because, as Mr. Fischer said in the article, there are thousands of dedicated student-athletes that put in the work in the classroom.
Of course, there is some pressure being included in those types of conversations; but I wouldn’t say that it puts any more pressure on me than I already put on myself.
No, my teammates don’t really say anything about my major. From time to time, I am asked to help with a homework problem or two, which I don’t mind. A great thing about our team is that I am just one of several players working hard in the classroom. We are all trying to take advantage of the academic opportunities. For example, not only I, but all of my current roommates, Brett Kendrick, Marquez North, and Dylan Wiesman, and a previous roommate, Malik Brown, were named to the 2013-14 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.
What role does spirituality play in your life?
Wow, I don’t know if there is enough space in this article to fully cover that subject. My personal relationship with Jesus Christ means everything to me. Everything that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to God and my parents. I try to live my life in a way that it glorifies God in everything I do. I was raised in a Christian home, where my parents grounded me in principles that help me deal with the demands of life. I believe in the power of prayer. Whether a situation is good or bad, I am guided by my faith. I am a member of First Redeemer Church back home. I try to attend church regularly here in the Knoxville and really enjoy visiting several of the local churches.
What it is like getting to know Peyton Manning? What have you learned from him that you can take with you on and off the field?
This summer was my third opportunity to spend time with Peyton Manning. The first was several years ago when I camped at his Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, LA and then, of course, during his two annual visits here on campus. Picking his brain is an amazing experience. It is humbling to see his work ethic first hand. During his most recent visit, we were actually able to sit down and watch film with him in addition to throwing live. We talked a lot of football, and he shared personal tips which I am working to implement into my play. He talked about how to study opposing defenses, what to look for when you approach the line of scrimmage, and how to mentally confuse the defense. His message to our QB group was pretty simple—if you want to be good at what you do, study and practice. The remarkable thing about Peyton is that despite all that he has accomplished—the awards, the records, and the accolades—he still works so hard on maintaining and improving his game. One of the privileges of playing football at the University of Tennessee is having an opportunity to learn from the greatest to play the QB position.
You are also taking some business classes. Why did you choose them on top of AE classes?
In addition to majoring in aerospace engineering, I am also getting a minor in Business Administration because I plan to eventually run my own company. I think it’s important to prepare for those opportunities now. My dad, whose background is in finance and commercial banking, has shared some of his experiences with me. In his line of work, he often sees professionals in engineering, medicine or technology who are very capable in their specialized fields, but are challenged in running the business side of their companies or practices. He and my mom recommended that I at least get a business minor for now and consider getting an MBA down the road.
How do you deal with some of the pressure and criticism that comes with being the QB at UTK?
Pressure and criticism isn’t unique to the QB position. Anyone who has played sports knows that pressure to succeed and criticism are a part of the job when you play competitive sports at any level. It starts in pee wee sports. By the time you reach the college stage, the pressure magnifies exponentially, especially when you play for a program with as rich a football history as the University of Tennessee. We definitely have some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the country. Everybody just wants to win. In the QB position, you quickly learned that you are often going to get both credit or blame for things you shouldn’t. So you simply try to stay focused and centered on the goal, never getting too high or too low. You only worry about the things that you can control. You look for support and encouragement from your teammates who you go to battle with you every day, your coaches who understand the process and your family and true friends who love you no matter what you do.
Have you enjoyed your engineering classes so far? What courses do you look forward to the most?
Yes, I have really enjoyed my engineering classes so far. Last year my favorite classes were Honors Physics for Engineers I and II. My professor, Dr. Chris Pionke, was very thorough and personable. It was nice to have the same instructor for both semesters, which really helped to maintain continuity with the material. The hands-on labs and projects throughout the year were fun and creative. My favorite assignment was the model car project. We designed, out of simply scrap materials, a car capable of traveling 20 feet down a track to hit a target. In fact, my small group won our class competition with the fastest and most accurate car.
I am really looking forward to getting into the heart of my upcoming aerospace classes. Two courses that standout at the 300 level are Airplane Performance (AE 370), which focuses on aircraft control, and Structural Analysis of Aerospace Vehicles (AE 363), where we finally start to examine the structure of space vehicles. Then in the 400 level classes, Astronautics (AE 424), which has a really cool name, introduces orbital mechanics and human factors in space flight; and finally in Aerospace Engineering Lab (AE 449), I’ll get to conduct extensive design experiments.
How have the other students in MABE treated you? Do you have many friends outside of football?
My fellow MABE classmates have treated me like any other MABE student. They see that I’m no different than they are. We are all trying to survive the rigor of the coursework. And yes, I do have friends outside of football. I am friends with several people from my classes. One of the benefits of being in the Chancellor’s Honors Program is the opportunity to participate in small discussion-based classes, which allows a lot of interaction with my classmates. I have made several friends while working on class projects and labs. I also spend a good bit of time studying with friends from class.
What is your opinion on unionizing college football or paying players a stipend?
I haven’t thought much about unionizing college football; but I know that it is a pretty complex proposition, especially when you think about the possible impact it could have on the player/coach interactions. The shift of players becoming employees and coaches/universities becoming employers is a big move. I don’t know if unionization, as I understand it, is the answer; but, I agree that that there are definitely parts of the current NCAA amateurism system that can be improved. The top three issues that stick out to me are covering full cost of attendance, providing extended health care benefits for the serious, debilitating injuries, and giving players a seat at the discussion tables. As a member of our Players’ Staff, which thanks to Coach Jones is our team’s version of a player-guided leadership council, I see the value of giving players an avenue to voice concerns and make suggestions.
—C O N T A C T :Kathy Williams (865-974-8615, firstname.lastname@example.org)